Republican lawmakers and veterans groups are calling for an investigation and open congressional hearings into how the Biden administration carried out its withdrawal of U.S. troops and the evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies from Afghanistan in 2021.
The eight GOP lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation call for “a thorough investigation into the failed withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country by President Biden,” according to a letter obtained by NBC News. The letter is addressed to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-Fla.
Republican members of the subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over Afghanistan, argue that the State Department did not establish a procedure for evacuating Americans to Afghanistan, and instead relied on “informal networks of veterans, members of Congress and NGOs to do its coordinating work. with American citizens and Afghans on the ground.
“Important unanswered questions remain regarding planning, intelligence, decision-making, inter-agency coordination, consequences and consequences of withdrawal,” they wrote. “But one thing is clear, the administration’s talking point that they did the best they could with what they had is patently false.
Eighteen veterans groups join the call for an investigation and public hearings with testimony from Biden administration officials. Led by the Special Operations Association of America (SOAA), the groups wrote a letter to Meeks and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Thursday, saying the public[s] a transparent and robust investigation into the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan” and “the resulting instability”. Several groups involved in evacuating people from Afghanistan co-signed the letter, including Task Force Pineapple, Project Exodus Relief and Task Force Argo.
“The American people deserve answers about what happened in Afghanistan,” they wrote.
SOAA’s CEO says it’s time to investigate the chaotic takedown.
“During the NEOs (Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations) and the months that followed, it was the right call to focus on helping as many vetted Afghans as possible, as thousands were being actively hunted by the [Taliban]”, Daniel Elkins said in an email to NBC News. “However, now is the time to start asking questions to ensure that the events of the last year never happen again.”
McCaul agrees with the need for public hearings. He sent his own letter Thursday to Assistant Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon, asking the State Department to participate in open, unclassified briefings and hearings.
On June 15, McKeon and other State Department officials held a confidential, closed-door briefing on Afghan policy for the Foreign Affairs Committee. McCaul is now asking that some of the unclassified content be made public.
“Having participated in this classified briefing, you know that the majority of the discussion was unclassified. Accordingly, and to reiterate the specific requests of the members present, I wish that the five unclassified opening statements be provided to all HFAC members McCaul wrote.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee oversees the State Department.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the House Foreign Affairs Committee said, “The committee has held several briefings and hearings on Afghanistan since the August withdrawal, both at the member and personal. This includes a member-level briefing last week with five senior State Department officials, which unfortunately many signatories to this letter did not attend. The committee also appreciated the department’s cooperation and responsiveness to our requests for information on Afghanistan, a notable change from the previous administration.
There are still about 300 US citizens in Afghanistan, according to State Department figures. The State Department says more than 80 of them are actively trying to leave the country.
The State Department received more than 67,500 applications for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) and approximately 9,000 applicants were approved by the US Chief of Mission but did not leave Afghanistan.
About 47,000 Afghans who have already left Afghanistan have applied for US humanitarian parole, but of those 5,400 have been denied and only about 300 have been approved.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Abigail Williams contributed.